Fifteen years ago, Leon Goltsman was suffering from arthritis which had left him bedridden and depressed. His saving grace was cycling.
“Cycling has actually saved my life because I was literally bedridden, and I felt debilitated, put a lot of weight on, and lost my motivation and even suffered depression,” he says.
The Eastern Suburbs resident refused to give up and simply accept his situation.
“I thought if I’m going to suffer, I might as well suffer doing things I enjoy on my terms,” he says.
“I bought a bike, and I did struggle to get used to it in the beginning, but I just started exercising and I started to get both my physical and mental health back.”
“Cycling gave me a chance to focus. It gave me a chance to set goals and gave me a chance to breathe.”
Riding for a good cause
Leon became motivated to do a long distance endurance ride to raise funds for a good cause.
“My first ride was to cycle from Bondi to Canberra, and at the time I was pretty unhealthy, but I was getting to the point where I had the confidence that I could do this, and I did,” he says.
“I found that it actually made a difference. It inspired people to also look into their own challenges, and I got a lot of positive feedback and support, and I found that ride gave me a lot of confidence.”
Since then, he has completed other long-distance rides to places like Canberra, Melbourne, and Queensland, all in the name of charity.
Leon had been set to ride to raise money for Cancer Council NSW last June and had even garnered support from local MPs and corporate sponsors. However, he was forced to postpone it due to COVID.
In September, Leon will finally have his chance to accomplish his mission when he participates in Cancer Council NSW’s inaugural Ride500 challenge. The month-long event will see cyclists ride 500km to raise funds for cancer research.
“I’m going to try and double and triple it if I can,” he says.
Fundraising for cancer research is a cause close to Leon as he’s lost family members to the disease, including his mother.
“Cancer Council is really important to me because they know the issue better than anybody,” he says.
“I believe what they’re saying is making a difference, and I want to be part of that difference.”
Leon says everyone who takes part in Ride500 gives hope to cancer patients and their families and shows that they’re not alone.
“The more people that get involved, the greater benefit we’re able to provide to more people affected by cancer,” he says.
“Your effort is inspiring people more than you’ll ever know.”
Leon’s top tips for riders
As the ambassador for Ride500 and an avid cyclist, Leon shares his tips for a successful ride.
1. Get ready the night before
“Make sure before you go to bed, you get all your clothes and all the things you’re going to wear ready, so when you wake up, you can have your shower, your breakfast, whatever routine you do, but you don’t have to look for clothes, you don’t have to look for your bike. It’s there.”
2. Things often look harder than they are
“I’ve learned that when you’re approaching a hill from far away, it looks very steep. But when you get to it, it’s nothing. It’s so flat, like you wouldn’t believe it. Things always seem more difficult than they really are. That’s the advice I would keep in mind.”
3. Look ahead
“If you look back, there’s a good chance you’ve taken your mind off the future and you’re looking at the past. Focus on where you’re going, not where you’ve been. And when you get to where you’re going, you can then look back and reflect on how you got there.”
4. Just do it
“If you want to go do something, do it first and then think about it after. Especially when it comes to cycling, you know it’s going to be good for you, you know it’s healthy. It may rain, it may not rain. You may be able to do it, you may not be able to do it. But the key is to just go out there and try and give it a go.”